El Niño | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Make a date with a butterfly. The Museum's new and improved Butterfly Pavilion opens soon! You can also see some every day snacking on nectar in the Nature Gardens.

NHMLA Member Magazine

October November 2017
Download the Naturalist PDF (4 MB)

El Niño SnailBlitz

It's SLIME time! Enter our El Niño SnailBlitz contest and help us reach our goal of 1,000 snail and slug pictures. 

Learn more and get involved!


El Niño

Storm Trackers!
Museum Scientists Look Out for the Unexpected Animals of El Niño


Hotter ocean temperatures are driving scores of rarely seen tropical sea creatures to Southern California shores. Museum scientists are the go-to experts when government agencies, citizen scientists, boaters, and beachgoers report a sighting or stranding.

The offshore menagerie includes big fish, such as whale sharks, as well as pilot whales, loggerhead sea turtles, crabs, and seabirds. They are either catching a ride with the current or venturing 1,000-plus miles north from their too-hot tropical habitats of Mexico and Central America in search of more hospitable waters and food. To track the storm along with Museum scientists and see these satellite images, check out NASA's cool website.

One spectacular visitor is this yellow-bellied sea snake, which is now part of the Museum's collection. NHM's Herpetology Curator Greg Pauly talks about the rare find :


Creatures and the Storm


During the El Niño months, Southern California beachgoers may come across California sea lion pups that are stranded on the sand. The Museum's Mammalogy Collections Manager Jim Dines says this is likely happening because nursing sea lion moms are swimming farther in search of shifting fish populations. Those forays keep them away from their pups, who are too young to strike out on their own into the ocean. If you spot a stranded sea lion, call the West Coast Marine Mammal stranding Network.



There are unexpected seabirds taking to the air along the Southern California coast as well. This season, more than 300 brown boobies have been spotted, far more than ever before.

You can find out more about El Niño, the Museum's storm trackers, and the out-of-place species visiting local shores in the February/March issue of the Naturalist, NHM's membership magazine.